I am a big fan of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (AS&SH) setting from North Wind Games. At least for now, Hyperborea has replaced my own Affiliation setting as preferred Swords & Sorcery / Weird Fantasy game world.
I’ve also really gotten into the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS) from Autarch Games. The rules are top-notch and have shown me how it’s possible to run the near-mythical D&D “endgame” of rulers, strongholds, and domains.
So I’m trying to integrate the rules for ACKS into the setting of AS&SH. One area of mismatch is religion. The implied Auran setting in ACKs assumes a collection of “Empyrean” and “Chthonic” deities with clerics and priests reasonably close to the D&D norm. AS&SH has otherworldy beings, alien entities, animistic and ancestral spirits, and other mysterious forces of deific power.
The difficulty is that there are a couple “historical” deities included in Hyperborea (Apollo and Artemis in particular) that don’t quite jive with how I view the setting, and the divine classes in ACKS build in some pretty neat stuff for the Auran gods that I’d like to use.
To reconcile this conflict in my (hypothetical) Hyperborean ACKS campaign, I propose the following…
Worship of “historical” gods from Old Earth has largely been abandoned in Hyperborea. In the centuries that each human race has developed in isolation, new deities have become popular. These new gods (sometimes referred to as the “Empyrean” deities) are more popular than presented in the Hyperborean Gazetteer of AS&SH; the Xatthoqquan “orthodoxy” in Khromarium, for example, must compete with the following faiths:
Ammonar (god of light, law, and creation) and Ianna (goddess of love and war) replace Apollo and Artemis as the primary “human” gods in Hyperborea. These are syncretic deities who have absorbed features of various Old Earth religions and are worshiped (under different names) by several cultures. (Note that Amazons recognize only the “Dancer of the Blade” aspect of Ianna.) (Spells as per Cleric & Bladedancer.)
Türas (a version of Thor) joins Ymir and Ullr amongst the Viking gods, and his worship has also spread to other races. Devotion to Türas is strongly discouraged in Vikland itself, though he is popular with Vikings elsewhere in Hyperborea. (As per Rachel’s Cleric of Thor, but replace Goblin-Slaying with Otherworldy Enemies.)
Calefa (goddess of wealth and protector of the dead) is venerated amongst the commoners in Scythia, though her worship is not encouraged by the priests of Yig. (As per Priestess or use Rachel’s Nephthys spell list.)
Mityara (goddess of peace and civic duty) has a small but devoted following, notably amongst Amazonian men. (As per Priestess or use Rachel’s Dannu spell list.)
Naurivus (god of travel, water, and weather) is observed amongst merchants (and some True Atlanteans), but does not inspire the same fervour as Ammonar or Ianna. (Standard cleric, I guess.)
Istreus (god of knowledge and learning) is openly mocked by the Xathoqquan orthodoxy. Not commonly worshipped, he is held in esteem by those rare mages who choose not to venerate more alien entities. (Wizard-Priest with Rachel’s Thoth spell list.)
In game terms, PCs devoted to the Empyrean deities use the cleric, bladedancer, and priestess rules as written; but with modified spell lists as noted above.
Swiped from the Autarch forums:
The word chthonic is actually a Greek word that refers to “gods beneath the earth” or “gods of the underworld.” The chthonic gods were worshiped at night, underground, and received ritual sacrifices (usually animals) burned or buried alive. Jungian psychologists align the chthonic gods as representing the unconscious spirit within, the Id – including envy, lust, sensuality, deceit, etc.
From this Greek derivative, I conceived of the Chthonic gods as being an ancient pantheon that is associated with darkness, the underworld, the earth, and with all of the irrational passions of man. These contrast with the Empyrean deities, associated with the air, the sky, the stars, the light of reason.
The word “chthonic” is pleasantly close to sounding “Chaotic” and “Cthulhu” so its admirably suited for a variety of uses, depending on your needs, of course.
I prefer the Lovecraftian powers in AS&SH to the specific chthonic gods presented in ACKS. Xathoqqua, Kthulu, Azathoth and the other Old Ones presented in the Hyperborea Gazetteer are all worshiped in my Hyperborean ACKS setting.
In game terms, I’m going to treat priests of the chthonic deities as ACKS Witches. I might modify the various traditions, but for now
Xathoqqua-followers can use the “Voudon” tradition; worshipers of Yig, Kthulu, Kraken, or Tlakk-Nakkla can use the “Chthonic” tradition; and followers of Lunaqqua can use the “Sylvan” tradition.
(UPDATE: House rules for Sorcerer-Priests of Xathoqqua have been developed.)
The “Antiquarian” Witch tradition is reserved for those witches who do not venerate the chthonic deities (particularly amongst the Kelts). (Diabolists also make pacts with dark powers to learn their forbidden lore.)
Other Religions / Notes
Animistic traditions are nicely represented by the ACKS Shaman class. Examples include Keltic druids and Viking runecasters. I see Kimmerians who observe Krimmr as “horse shamans” instead of clerics. Followers of Yoon’Deh can be treated as shamans. (And now that I think of it, worshipers Tlakk-Nakkla might work better as shamans too.)
Ascetic monks of any philosophy can use the ACKS Mystic class.
There are no Paladins or Anti-Paladins in my Hyperborea ACKS setting.
(Wow; that’s enough of a ‘wall of text’ for now. This should provide enough info to potential players.)